How SeaWorld, Humane Society united

April 1, 2016

It hardly seemed like a match made in heaven. But after Joel Manby took over asSeaWorld Entertainment‘s chief executive officer last year, a friend suggested he meet with Wayne Pacelle, head of Humane Society of the United States.

“I just kind of thought they would mesh,” said former congressman John Campbell, who got the two talking, in an interview Thursday.

It looks like he was right. Last month, Manby and Pacelle appeared on television together to announce SeaWorld’s landmark decision to stop breeding killer whales.

While he was the Republican co-chair of the Congressional animal-protection caucus, Campbell had gotten to know Pacelle. Campbell knew Manby from when they both worked in the auto industry.

A three-way conference call happened in June. It took a while for anything to come of the discussions, though.

“The problem, frankly… was a lot of people at the Humane Society were telling Wayne, ‘You can’t trust SeaWorld,’ and a lot of people at SeaWorld were telling Joel, ‘You can’t trust the Humane Society,'” Campbell said. “The biggest issue for each of them, I think, was to overcome that feeling within their organization of, `Just don’t go down this road; it will be nothing but pain and ugliness, and so forth.'”

In fact, Pacelle had written a chapter critical of SeaWorld for a new book that will be published this month. He has since written a postscript praising Manby for the recent changes.

Pacelle said one issue he and Manby discussed in the beginning was backing off attempts to acquire a group of wild-captured Russian beluga whales. SeaWorld was part of a consortium led by the Georgia Aquarium trying to obtain the whales. “I told him early on, `You’ve got to disassociate yourself. You cannot be involved with that,'” Pacelle said. SeaWorld in September said it would not accept any of the belugas. “The discussions just kind of picked up speed from there,” Pacelle said.

Manby was not available for an interview. A SeaWorld spokeswoman said the company arrived at its decision independently, not as a result of conversations with Pacelle. The aquarium lost its legal battle to acquire the belugas shortly after SeaWorld pulled out.

In early December, the three men dined together at a Washington D.C. Wolfgang Puck restaurant.

“I think at that point, at that dinner, they both learned they could work together and could trust one another,” Campbell said.

At dinner, Campbell said, the two were able to craft the beginning of the agreement that was announced in March. SeaWorld’s end to orca breeding was the big change. But there are other commitments too. SeaWorld will advocate for an end to commercial whaling and sealing and to fight shark finning. It also will source only sustainably raised seafood, crate-free pork and cage-free eggs, and it will offer more vegan and vegetarian options at its restaurants.

SeaWorld CEO talks online with park’s fans

Manby got in front of a webcam Wednesday to chat with some of SeaWorld’s biggest fans about the big changes at his company.

People on SeaWorld’s email list got an invitation to the event, in which they could submit questions via email.

Deciding to end killer-whale breeding, Manby said, was the toughest decision he’s ever made in business.

But society was shifting, with more people opposed to orcas in captivity. “That trend didn’t seem to be abating,” he said. “It was even worse when you looked at the younger generation coming up, like the Millennials. The data was even worse.” Efforts to legislate SeaWorld were also worrying the company, he said. “We were quite certain that in California, legislation would come against us,” he said, with the potential to spread east.

Universal redesigns its site for travel agents

Universal Orlando has launched a newly designed travel-agent website, which it says will help the resort grow its partnership with them.

UniversalTravelAgents.com features a new design and added benefits for travel agents. One of the highlights includes a comprehensive online training program that allows agents to become certified Universal Orlando Resort Specialists. The self-paced, online program offers an in-depth look at Universal. Other benefits include an online ordering system featuring the latest marketing materials and sales collateral for agents to use in-office or to share with clients. Universal has certified travel agents before. “But we have enhanced the process, taking the amount of information and content to new levels, allowing agents to come away with a much deeper understanding of the Universal experience,” spokesman Tom Schroder said in an email.

spedicini@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5240

Source: Orlando Sentinel 

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